This is another full-field event which will feature a regular cut after Friday’s round. The Houston Open used to be a feature stop on the PGA TOUR as the event directly prior to the Masters in April, but it was moved into the Fall swing two years ago. Now in its second year in its Fall slot, it’s again playing as the warm up to Augusta due to this year’s COVID-adjusted schedule.
With the November Masters providing good motivation for the top players to get in more competitive reps before the year’s last major, this year’s Houston field once again has some bigger names attached to it. Brooks Koepka ($10,600) is back after returning at The CJ Cup two weeks ago, and he was part of the redesign team for this week’s new venue at Memorial Park. Dustin Johnson ($11,500), Hideki Matsuyama ($10,000), and Jason Day ($9,000) are also all in the field here giving it some needed star power after most of the top 50 players skipped last week. Tony Finau ($10,900), Scottie Scheffler ($9,600), Adam Scott ($9,200) and Viktor Hovland ($9,800) round out the top end of this field which features plenty of players who will be at Augusta in a week’s time and will be looking to use a solid result here for a run at the big prize next week.
Memorial Park Golf Course—Houston, Texas
par 72, 7,432 yards; Greens: Bermuda
This year marks a change in venues for the Houston Open as they are moving on from the Golf Course of Houston and will instead be hosted by Memorial Park Golf Course, a public links course that was recently renovated by the city of Houston and will be hosting this event for the first time since 1963.
The complete redesign of this course was completed in 2019 by Tom Doak, who brought in PGA TOUR pro Brooks Koepka as an advisor. The venue is a pure parkland course but was modified significantly from its old layout. Water is now in play on four holes and natural hazards like ravines now come into play as well. Elevation changes to greens and fairways also occurred while the redesign also decided to eliminate much of the sand that was on the course, as only 19 bunkers now are in play. The course was given a variety of different/new tee boxes as well, allowing the course to set up to play at various lengths, including ultra-long for the pros. If you see previews with different yardage markings this week, this is likely the reason as the course will likely set up longer this week than it ever does for public play.
As for the setup, there have been conflicting reports about how exactly Memorial Park will play but it looks as if it will play as a par 72. From the course’s site, Memorial Park does contain five par 5’s and five par 3’s, making it quite unique from a regular par 72 setup—which generally only features four of those types of holes. Three of the par 5’s do stretch over 570 yards in length so not all of them will necessarily be massive birdie opportunities, but the added length might also play into the hands of bigger hitters. The par 4’s here run the gamut, as there is a driveable par 4 (the 13th), but also four that play well over 450 yards in length.
A lot will depend on how high they set the rough, although with Memorial being a public links course, we likely shouldn’t expect crazy-hard scoring. A solid comparison for this week may be the site of the PGA Championship this year at TPC Harding Park, which was also quite lengthy and was also a public links course in a parkland setting. Memorial will likely offer far more birdie opportunities but could also emphasize good Off the Tee and Tee to Green given its length.
2020 Outlook: It is Texas, so realistically, we should prepare for almost anything. With that said, the forecast for the lead up to the Masters this year looks near perfect. Highs will be in the high-70’s with mostly sunny skies and essentially zero rain in the forecast. Wind can often be a factor in Texas—those who remember the massacre at Valero in 2015 knows this as fact—but it looks like we’re getting a calm Fall in Texas, in that regard. Winds are not expected to rise much past 8-9 mph on the first two days with Thursday looking the calmest of the bunch. We could see gusts approach 12-14 mph on the weekend, with Sunday slated to get the most wind. Early weekend starters could get a small edge for you this weekend in Showdown contests, if that forecast holds, but otherwise don’t expect weather to play much of a factor.
Last Five winners
**Tournament was played at the Golf Club of Houston in all years prior.
2019—Lanto Griffin -14 (Mark Hubbard -13)
2018—Ian Poulter -19 (over Beau Hossler playoff)
2017—Russell Henley -20 (over Sung Kang -17)
2016—Jim Herman -15 (over Henrik Stenson -14)
2015—JB Holmes -16 (over Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner playoff)
Past Winners and Trends
2019—Lanto Griffin -14 (over Scott Harrington and Mark Hubbard -13)
Previous last five starts coming into 2019 (T57-T13-T11-T17-T18)
· Griffin was playing for the fifth time in five weeks when he won here last season and the heavy Fall schedule certainly benefited him, as it did many last year who brought good form into these events.
· The American was an emblem of consistency prior to winning here too, as he’d made 11 cuts in a row prior to his win here.
· Griffin had gained +5 or more strokes tee to green in his last four starts on the PGA TOUR before winning in Houston and was also riding an insanely hot putter, which had gained him +4 or more strokes in three of his previous four starts.
· Last year’s second-place finisher Mark Hubbard also followed a very similar path to Griffin, as he’d played in all four of the prior Fall events and had posted T13 and T10 finishes before nearly closing here.
· Co-runner up Scott Harrington had also played in three of four prior Fall events and was coming off one of his best PGA TOUR finishes, a T23 at the Safeway Open.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful to not put too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
Zach Johnson +4000 and $8,600
· Corey Conners +6000 and $8,700
· Doc Redman +6000 and $8,800
· Lanto Griffin +6000 and $8,900
Keegan Bradley +7000 and $7,200
· Wyndham Clark +10000 and $7,700
· Alex Noren +9000 and $7,800
· Sam Burns +10000 and $7,500
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: With the Masters looming next week and some question marks surrounding the top players in the field here, going with a balanced approach to start your DraftKings lineups this week isn’t the worst idea. Scottie Scheffler ($9,600-see below) and Viktor Hovland ($9,800) are both playing quite well and should have plenty of motivation to go after the win in Houston to secure their world rankings for next year. After them, mid-range targets like Cameron Davis ($8,100) and Si Woo Kim ($8,300) deserve some consideration for how well they score on DraftKings and their consistency of late. Other potential cash targets to include here include the likes of Sam Burns ($7,500), Matthew NeSmith ($7,000) and Mark Hubbard ($6,800).
Tournaments: Tony Finau ($10,900) being priced up as the second-highest player in this medium strength field may actually keep his ownership down this week. He played well in his return from a COVID-19 diagnosis and could really benefit from the five par 5’s in play this week from a DraftKings scoring perspective. At $8K, James Hahn ($8,000) also brings in really good form but given some of the names he’s priced around it seems doubtful his ownership will get out of control either. Further down, Aaron Wise ($7,400) also makes for a solid GPP pivot as he’s shown better consistency of late and remains cheap for the talent he possesses. Other potential big-field tournament targets here include Russell Knox ($7,200), Ollie Schniederjans ($7,100), Charl Schwartzel ($6,700) and Kevin Tway ($6,200).
1. Russell Henley ($9,400, Recent finishes: T4-T3): Henley has been on a tear for most of the summer, mixing in solid finishes with several top 10’s or better. Recently he came close to winning in both of the limited field events in L.A. and Vegas, and even entered Sunday with the 54-hole lead at The CJ Cup. He ranks first in TTG and APP stats over the last 50 rounds.
2. James Hahn ($8,000, Recent finishes: 6th-T13): Hahn has found something in his game over the last couple months, recording three top 10’s in a row coming into this week—including a top five from the Shriners three weeks ago where he gained +6.7 strokes on APP. He’s been off for a few weeks now, but his run of good play has been backed by solid ball-striking, so expect to see more good stuff from him here.
3. Sergio Garcia ($9,100, Recent finishes: T21-T43-win): Garcia won last month at the Sanderson Farms Event where he putted with his eyes closed the whole week. The veteran has struck the ball of late and ranks first in OTT stats in this field. His putting remains a week-to-week mystery, but he’ll be looking for one more good effort here prior to Augusta.
4. Tyrrell Hatton ($10,300, Recent finishes: T3-T27): Hatton bounced back nicely from a missed cut at the U.S. Open with a T3 finish at The CJ Cup last month, where he led the field in approach stats. He ranks out 5th in SG Approach stats and 3rd in DraftKings points gained over the last 50 rounds in this field.
5. Wyndham Clark ($7,700, Recent finishes:2nd-T13): Clark has started to put together some big results in the Fall swing, posting a T13 at the Shriners before his playoff loss in Bermuda last week. The talented 26-year-old is showcasing some of the potential he showcased while in college and should be one to watch in the remaining Fall events as we close out the season.
MY PICK: Scottie Scheffler ($9,600)
Despite missing out on the U.S. Open due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, Scheffler will in fact be making his fifth Fall start this week. This run puts him nicely in line with last year’s top finishers at this event, who had all been active in the Fall as well. The American hasn’t put up any massive results since returning to the PGA TOUR in the Fall, but you are starting to get the sense another big week is just around the bend. The T17 at the ZOZO Championship saw him in contention going into Sunday before some lackluster putting led him to an even par final round and just a T17 finish.
Scheffler actually led the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee stats at the ZOZO and also ranked 4th in SG: Tee to Green stats, so his game seems to be shaping up nicely as we get closer to the year’s last major. The 24-year-old has produced some solid results on similar parkland style settings, including a T4 at the year’s first major at TPC Harding Park, and the longer driving holes here—which includes five Par 5’s— should really benefit a player who is in such good form with his driver. A Texas native, who also attended school in the state, Scheffler should feel right at home this week and sets up as a solid DraftKings play in the mid-$9K range. He should have a great shot at bringing home his first win this week.
MY SLEEPER: Matthew NeSmith ($7,000)
NeSmith comes into this week’s event playing solid golf. The 27-year-old flashed some good form around this time last year too and comes into 2020’s version of the Houston Open with T17 and T8 finishes over his last two starts. NeSmith ranks fourth in this field in Strokes Gained: Approach stats over his last 50 rounds, a statistic that should automatically get him on our radar for DFS purposes. The fact he’s also putting well though makes him an even higher-end target for me. The South Carolina native has now gained +3 or more strokes putting in each of his last two starts and seems far more confident with that club of late after enduring a prolonged slump on the greens in the late summer.
Over his last three starts, NeSmith has ranked 1st-23rd-26th in birdies made and is clearly feeling confident rolling into what will be his fifth Fall swing event. This is a player who has shown promise and the ability to compete in these weaker field events—when the best players are either lacking top form or simply not out in droves—and should be able to keep up with the bigger hitters here even if the course does play a little longer. Good weather and likely manageable rough means he may even have a shot at taking down his first win here, and at $7K flat on DraftKings, he rates out as great DFS value for me.
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